The No. 4 Stanford men’s water polo team maintained its fourth-place spot in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation (MPSF) standings with two conference wins this weekend. The Cardinal defeated Long Beach State 11-3 on Saturday and UC-Irvine 14-7 on Sunday.
Sunday’s game was a predictably high-scoring affair, as No. 6 UC-Irvine is third in the MPSF in goals scored but has allowed the second-most goals of any conference team.
Early on, Irvine (14-10, 2-5 MPSF) looked like it would be a tough test. The Anteaters scored the first two goals of the game before a pair of goals by redshirt sophomore 2-meter Forrest Watkins tied the score at 2-2. A big second period put Stanford (16-4, 5-2) ahead, though, as it scored five goals in the frame to take a 7-4 halftime lead.
Stanford’s second-ranked defense took over in the second half, turning the game into the team’s second rout of the weekend. A 5-0 run in the second half put the Cardinal ahead 12-5, and the game was out of reach by then. Redshirt senior goalie Brian Pingree led the defense with 11 saves against the shot-happy Irvine team.
“We did a pretty good job of shot-blocking on the outside, which made it easier for Pingree,” Watkins said.
Senior driver Jacob Smith led the team with three goals. Redshirt senior driver Ryan Kent, junior driver Paul Rudolph, redshirt sophomore driver Austin Trinkle and Watkins followed with two goals apiece. Freshman utility Alex Bowen, redshirt sophomore driver Ian Gamble and redshirt junior driver Travis Noll added one goal each.
On Saturday the Cardinal took care of No. 7 Long Beach State in a game that was close for much of the first three quarters. Although the final score was a gaping 11-3, Stanford led just 4-2 at halftime. Goals by Watkins, Noll and Smith jump-started Stanford to a 3-0 lead, but a couple of second-quarter goals and an early third-quarter goal brought the 49ers within one at 4-3.
Yet again, though, a dominant defensive effort helped Stanford pull away significantly in the second half. The Cardinal went on a 7-0 run to end the game, shutting out Long Beach State for the last 15:16 of the contest.
Pingree had to make only five saves because of the strong defensive play by the position players. Watkins attributed a lot of that to Long Beach State’s style of play.
“They were working the set a lot harder, so we got more rejections and steals,” Watkins said. The three goals by Long Beach State are the fewest Stanford has allowed against any MPSF opponent.
Bowen led the way with a hat trick, while Rudolph, senior utility Peter Sefton and Watkins had two goals apiece. Noll and Smith each added a goal.
Stanford hosts two games against non-conference opponents next weekend, No. 14 Santa Clara on Saturday and No. 12 UC-Davis on Sunday. A second weekend in a row with Saturday and Sunday games should help the team prepare for the MPSF Tournament.
“Going back-to-back is good preparation for the MPSF Tournament, where we will have to win three games in three days” Watkins said.
The Cardinal can then set its sights on the Nov. 19 regular-season finale against No. 3 California in the Big Splash. The teams have already split a pair of games this season, and with a win Stanford would move into a tie with Cal for second place in the MPSF, which is important for tournament seeding and matchups.